by Harris Eisenhardt
The answer, I believe, is as follows: Do not mourn the loss of this planet prematurely, and do not resign to the pessimists’ comfort.
Personal actions contribute to collective climate change […] we should hold ourselves accountable.
Creating a sustainable future requires substantial behavioral modification of the most impactful species on Earth—humans. What I hope to outline is an integration of our disparaging environmental relationships, highlighting not only the existing issues in brevity, but also the directives for action that I presently value most. Furthermore, I intend for this short piece to identify the extreme and severe urgency with which this action plan for environmental protection must be approached.
First, I feel that the human population, irrespective of total size and numbers, must reinvigorate a dedicated sense of altruism—a selfish group is a self-destructive one. The most successful herds of large mammals, when not exposed to the consumptive human population, are ones who purposefully compromise individual comfort and welfare for the survival and prolonged success of the young. This innate, ecologically-coordinated practice seems to have been systematically abandoned by the human species in the vast majority of communities. With the advent of wealth and its tiered distribution, the mentality of individualism has propagated beyond conceivably natural human standards, leaving us with a rather disassociated existence. Thus, I think it is becoming increasingly important for us to be conscious of our consumption. If we can see through products on the shelves, and understand that human labor, sacrifice and resources have gone into anything and everything we consume, we can begin to empathize with and work for the well-being of populations around the world.
I also feel that our disassociation from each other has distanced our relationship from global issues, often perceived as too large to concern our own respective lives. One pathway for allowing more innovation in the direction of a sustainable future is the personalization of both problems and solutions related to our environment. If we can convince everyone on Earth that personal actions contribute to collective climate change and will ultimately impact each of us somehow, a cumulatively productive initiative may result. For the sake of our own healthy existence, we should hold ourselves accountable. The scientific community expects that by the year 2030, there will be such a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that catastrophic climate change events will be irreversibly set in motion. The culmination of a childhood beginning today will be nothing less than the dismantling of global balance at our own hands.
Attachment and commitment will come only with true persistence and willingness on the parts of both vehement environmentalists and of the passionate opposition. How can we begin this personalization in the midst of a global crisis of endless dimensions and stakeholders?
We should begin with human-focused efforts and productivity within our own communities. Synthesize our newfound altruism to produce efforts aimed at ending homelessness, reworking the crippled food distribution system, ensuring access to electricity and clean water for all, and protecting and fostering the rights and access to medical care universally. It is undeniable that the results from this type of work will yield a healthier population, which has a strong positive correlation with the health of the surrounding environment. We should aim our propositions for clean energy, wetland protection, vegetarianism/veganism, water and air regulation, and organic food production at their positive impacts on human life resulting from these activities, not necessarily at their interconnection with the sustainability of the planet.
I would like to finally make the proposition that policy creation and governance be more aggressive in the direction of hands on change. Government should enable individuals to see their own capabilities in organizing and protecting the environment, instead of simply reporting on the problems. Media coverage, literature, and written discussion in any capacity should lean towards a definitive—within scientific bounds—attribution of our existing catastrophes to our own actions. We must try to stray from merely stating that a given problem exists, and rather begin our discussions and postulations with the probable causes of that problem. For communities, urban or rural, to visualize and feel the influence of their actions on water, soil, and air would be to enliven a group solely based on protecting and preserving life itself. We must work to re-associate with the resources of the environment that have long been exploited, and communicate across a global spectrum regarding how we have and will succeed in creating a sustainable future existence.
by Harris Eisenhardt
Harris Eisenhardt is a senior at SUNY-ESF (State University of New York–College of Environmental Science & Forestry), where he studies sustainable energy management.
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)